Football / Second Division: Bolton's progress halted

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Bradford City . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Bolton Wanderers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

BOLTON'S rattle towards automatic promotion was beginning to look irresistible but nothing can be taken for granted. At a conservative estimate, they had 80 per cent of the play yesterday, but wound up suffering their first defeat since 9 February.

After 11 wins in 14 starts and with five games left, the side that knocked Liverpool out of the Cup are still contenders for the play- offs at least, and they could run into Bradford again. These points raised the Yorkshiremen's haul to 14 from seven games.

Bradford's excursions into the Bolton half could be counted on one hand, but when they did break out, things happened.

Sean McCarthy put them ahead with an excellent goal. Stephen Torpey stretched Bolton's defence with a fine, deep ball from right to left, Paul Jewell knocked back an instant pass inside and McCarthy, taking the ball on the run, delivered a perfect left- footed drive from 18 yards.

For all their dominance, Bolton created few outright chances and it took a goalkeeper's nightmare to bring them on level terms at the start of the second half. Gavin Oliver under-hit a back-pass into his area, Ian Bowling went to clear, but managed only to kick the ball into John McGinlay's body. Luck favoured the Bolton striker and the rebound spun obligingly over the Bradford goal-line.

Bolton pressed still harder and a second goal seemed inevitable. But then Bradford nicked it with five minutes left. Gary Williams floated a free-kick from the left, Oliver headed back across goal and substitute Michael McHugh nodded home from close range after only five minutes on the field.

When Bolton were progressing in the Cup, their manager Bruce Rioch would have swapped it all for League points. The exchange may not be needed, although some nail-biting days lie ahead, especially now that Andy Walker, their 33-goal top scorer, may be out with knee ligament damage.

Bradford City: I Bowling; G Williams, W Heseltine, L Duxbury, N Blake, G Oliver, P Jewell, M Duxbury, S Torpey (M McHugh, 80 min), F Stapleton (C Lawford, 11 min) S McCarthy. Player-manager: F Stapleton.

Bolton Wanderers: K Branagan; P Brown, D Burke, D Lee, M Seagraves, A Stubbs, T Kelly, J McAteer, M Winstanley, J McGinlay, S Green. Subs: J Darby, G Parkinson. Manager: B Rioch.

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).

Goals: McCarthy (1-0, 19 min); McGinlay (1-1, 46 min); McHugh (2-1, 85 min).